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RFID in passports: bad idea

Posted by bboyes on October 29, 2005 at 2:20 PM PDT

The NewScientist article describes what appears to be a glaring lack of system design. RFID in a passport might sound like a good idea, but consider this:

Without any protection, the passports might be "skimmed" – read at a distance by strangers as people walked through any public place. The weakness could allow a government to track someone, or allow a criminal to steal the names, digital photos and passport numbers of people on the street... Some critics even worried that the chip could act as a trigger to detonate a bomb when someone with an American passport walked by.

OK, so the State Department is trying to work around that little drawback, but you have to wonder why they can't afford a decent systems engineer to think these things through, first.

Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is leading the charge in filing comments on this half-baked idea. "RFID in passports is a terrible idea, period. But on top of that, the State Department is acting without the appropriate authority and without conducting any form of credible cost-benefit analysis," said EFF Senior Attorney Lee Tien. "It's asking Americans to sacrifice their safety and privacy 'up front' for a dangerous experiment that it hasn't even bothered to justify."

Perhaps the State Dept is following the lead of the state of California which is also getting hammered for proposing RFID in various ID cards (such as driver licenses).

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